Israel: Ministers vote to advance online censorship bill
The bill would allow the removal of social media content that harms state security or public safety
Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted to advance a contentious bill that seeks to limit incitement on social media by allowing content to be removed by court order.
The Facebook Bill, put forth by Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar, was unanimously approved by the ministerial committee on Monday.
Pending a district court’s decision, the proposal would allow the removal from social media of content, including advertising, that has a real possibility of harming individual security, state security, or public safety.
Critics argue that it is dangerous to give the court such immense power over public speech.
“Bennett and Sa’ar… bring a law that will censor social networks and deprive citizens of freedom of expression,” Israel’s Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“There is no such law in any democracy. Bennett, Sa’ar, and Lapid, you are the ones that are undermining democracy.”
Netanyahu is not alone in his opposition to the bill.
According to the independent research center Israel Democracy Institute, “the law opens a door to governmental censorship and makes it possible to remove content from institutions, such as Israeli and foreign newspapers, at a level of intrusion that does not exist in any other country in the democratic world.”
“The law disproportionately violates the right to freedom of expression and opinion,” the organization added in a statement.
In response to Netanyahu, Justice Minister Sa’ar argued that the former prime minister “brought a much stricter law in terms of the authority of police officers to enter private homes.”
While the latest progression of the bill continues to spark debate, it still needs to be ratified in parliament to become a law.